Saturday, May 5, 2012

Forty Guns

Forty Guns, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan, is a disjointed, melodramatic mess of a movie.  Revealed by signage on buildings as set in the county seat of Cochise County, that is, Tombstone, Arizona, this 1957 film has so many subplots it’s hard to keep straight what is going on and why.  Mostly, it’s about one man, Griff Bonnell, a Federal marshal who, with his two brothers, rides into town and gets mixed up with Jessica Drummond and the men who ride for her, including her nasty younger brother, Brockie.

The only tie-in to ASJ is actually an interesting one: Griff doesn’t want Chico, his youngest brother, following in his footsteps.  Apparently, although Griff is a peace officer, he also has a reputation as a gunman and is known as “the truest gun in the West.”  Chico doesn’t understand why Griff wants to keep him out of harm’s way by sending him back to the family farm. 

About halfway through Forty Guns, Griff compares himself to a Roman gladiator and tells his brother, “There’s a new era coming…  My kind of making a living is on the way out…  I’m a freak.”  Of course this hints, by about fifteen years, at the scene in Exit from Wickenburg when Kid Curry tells Tommy essentially the same thing.

But that’s as deep as Forty Guns ever gets.  All the gunfights, love stories, natural disasters, double crosses, and familial problems can’t make up for the shallowness of the relationship between the two main characters and as a result, it’s hard to care about what happens to them or any of the other characters.  At 79 minutes, this black-and-white film seemed much longer.